I was cleaning out my closet today, looking for some of my really old artwork (we are talking 5th grade prints made from drawing into styrofoam), and I came across some pretty recent writing I did for a creative writing class.
I wrote about modern art. Keep in mind that though the piece is poking fun at modern art and its admirers, I do not necessarily feel this way about it all. I am one of those people that loves the art that other people shake their heads at, wondering what art has gone to. Enjoy. Comment. Whatever.
Educated citizens of today's society are expected to understand and appreciate the art in all forms. Read that sentence again--that means your college degree won't get you the appreciation it once did. Now, you're expected to go to poetry readings and modern dance recitals and underground improv and interpretive theater and worst of all--you are expected to visit modern art museums. Gallery openings. The whole shebang. And you don't know anything about the expressionist movement, much less Dada. But now that you have stumbled upon this piece of fine literature, you can fit in with those pretentious artsy assholes you so admire!
The first step to modern art is being able to recognize it. This means not walking into a gallery and studying the light switch, before realizing it is not modern art at all. Just an electrical switch. This seems easy enough at first, but as art becomes more and more conceptual you may find yourself unsure. Your first clue is a sign or a plaque. If you see one of these near what you are looking at, take a quick glance to make sure it relates. (TIP: A quick glance is required, because any longer and others will assume you are reading the thing, instantly eliminating all credibility you might have had later). If a sign is not present, there is still a chance that it is art, you must look for other clues. These include other artsy people starting at what you are staring at, velvet roping around said object, or an absence of weird looks from the security guard.
At this point, you should be fairly sure that what you are looking at is actually modern art. It is now that you need to assume the art admiration stance. This stance should not look forced in any way, and may need to be practiced in front of a mirror. First, you must take your left arm and bend it at the elbow, holding it close to your stomach. Then, rest your right elbow on your left hand, and hold your right hand to your chin. The completed pose should look like you are in deep thought. Tilt your head a bit to the left, and nod your head complacently to complete the look. If you are successful, others will look at you admiringly because you clearly understand the blank canvas better than they do. This is not the end of your training, however, as you will be tested by true believers.
These believers tend to leave others alone, believing themselves to be superior to the tourists of the modern art world. But if your training has been successful thus far (which it has) they will approach you thinking you are a fellow art nerd and will bounce their ideas off of you. Or, if you somehow manage to botch these easy instructions, they will try to prove your idiocy. In both cases, they are trying to trip you up, so that they may show their prowess. Some common statements (to which you must respond) include...
"The revolutionary attention to color in this piece evokes knowledge of the psychology of color and how the eye views and labels them differently. The largeness of it envelopes you and in a sense you are the color that you see"
"This work challenges the very definition of art by taking everyday objects and using and labeling them as art"
"The importance of this work is not the subject matter, but rather the process of letting go, and letting the inner you express that which you did not know you contained"
When responding to these statements, it is best to avoid eye contact with the person you are talking to, instead remaining in the art appreciation pose and nodding with comprehension. When they are done, pause for several seconds before responding. While responding, it is important to remove your right hand from the chin and gesture nonchalantly at the work. However, do not move your left arm or right elbow, as this will take away your aura of sophistication.
When constructing your response, it is best to either repeat what was said to you in a different way, or use your impressive art vocabulary without actually saying anything.
"Yes, the canvas is large enough to inhabit your entire field of vision. The artist controls what you see; the shade of green becomes all you know"
"It makes you question the line between everyday and significant, and while doing so, question your own significance"
"It is like saying what we do is the art, not what we make"
Most art appreciators are aloof enough that this will be the end of your conversation. If not, feel free to make them uncomfortable by constructing a vocabulary-laden sentence in which you refer to your outstanding art knowledge. This will intimidate the appreciator, and thus make you better than them.
If you have followed these steps you should be receiving invitations to gallery openings and other events with free food and cheap wine. To not fall behind, it is best to attend these, and tell the others that you have discovered a "Great Unknown". They will soon be tripping over themselves in admiration. Congratulations on your artistic achievement, you pretentious asshole.